The silliness of summer has reached a new height this week. Mayor Stephen Mandel had some tough words for Wildrose leader Ms. Smith yesterday as she declared her four… err… three MLA caucus support for the group collecting signatures for the City Centre Airport petition. Mayor Mandel made it clear that he did not appreciate the Wildroses intrusion into a debate that has become highly passionate among a disgruntled section of Edmonton’s business community. One Calgary columnist accused the Mayor of Calgary-bashing, but it is much more nuanced than that.
Why would Ms. Smith wade into this issue? Might it be a genuine desire to see Edmontonians vote on the airport issue? With no local MLAs and second or third place support in the City of Edmonton (according to most polls), it could also be a political power play. With all but one PC MLA silent on the issue, Ms. Smith could be looking to draw in the support of that disgruntled (and largely conservative) crowd who might not be happy that their newly elected PC MLAs are silently enjoying their summer vacations.
While Ms. Smith’s endorsement made headlines, barely anyone has noticed the motley crew of three local MLAs who have peeped up with opinions on the issue. First-term backbencher Mr. Elniski, anti-establishment hound Liberal MLA Mr. MacDonald, and NDP leader Mr. Mason are the only MLAs to speak publicly in favour of the airport petition. I have heard from a number of sources that PC MLAs have been told to steer clear from this potentially dangerous debate, with the exception of Mr. Elniski whose Edmonton-Calder constituency encompasses the airport.
In 2004, a group of PC MLAs became entangled in a nasty quarrel with City Council over the move of scheduled 10-seat flights from Calgary and Lethbridge to the International Airport. That quarel is considered by many people to be one of the factors that led to a Liberal sweep of Edmonton in the November 2004 election.
“Enough is enough. There gets to be a point where you have to ask, ‘Can Edmonton make a decision without someone interfering in it?’ ” Mandel said.
“Because another city complains, we have to change things. Let’s hear Calgary complaining, and then I’m sure will have to reinstitute those flights. I think it’s absolutely unacceptable that the city of Edmonton has to play second fiddle to anyone.”
SOURCE: Stay out of it, mayor tells the province, Keith Gerein and Kelly Cryderman. Edmonton Journal. Edmonton, Alta.: Jul 27, 2004. pg. B.1
Less than three months after making this statement, Councillor Mandel was elected Mayor.